Pickup truck sales have gone from strength to strength over recent years with many newcomers coming to the market. With this latest generation of bulky, mean-looking models, it’s easy to forget the classic pickup trucks; the single-cab 4×2 pickups that were a common sight on construction sites and in farmyards in the 70’s through to the 90’s.
History of classic pickup trucks
These classic pickup trucks were a far cry from the SUV-like machines of today. The vast majority of the early models were little more than cars sawn in half and fitted with a load bed at the back attached via a ladder-frame chassis.
The UK’s appetite for the 4×2, single-cab pickups waned in the mid-90’s with the introduction of higher payload and more practical small panel vans like the Volkswagen Caddy, Renault Kangoo and Peugeot Expert.
The Bedford KB is a true classic pickup truck that hit UK dealerships in the late 1970’s, and was pitched strongly against the Ford P100 (then known as the Cortina pickup). It was essentially a rebadged Isuzu KB although, unlike the Isuzu, the Bedford KB was only available in single-cab and with a 4×2 layout.
In 1972, General Motors (the parent company of Bedford Vehicles) acquired a 34 percent stake in Isuzu. In the same year, Isuzu had launched a pickup variant of its Florian car, called the KB, which interested the management at Bedford.
Because Isuzu had very little presence in Europe at the time, the two companies agreed that General Motors would sell and distribute the Japanese-made pickup under its European commercial brand. The Bedford KB was replaced by the Bedford Brava (later the Vauxhall Brava) in 1988.
Read more on the Bedford KB.
The Ford P100 was introduced to the UK and is one of the most remembered of our classic pickup trucks. The model can trace its history back to the Ford Cortina pickup that was launched in South Africa in 1971 as early models were based on the Ford Cortina MKV, but these were replaced by Ford Sierra models in 1987.
The first generation Ford P100s were built in South Africa, although production was shifted to Portugal for the second generation. These low, 4×2 single-cab pickups lost ground in the 1990’s, with many operators switching to the new dedicated small panel vans like the Citroen Berlingo and VW Caddy, and sales of the Ford P100 ceased in 1993.
Read more on the Ford P100.
Skoda Felicia pickup
Less than 12 months after the Felicia’s 1994 launch, Skoda introduced a light-duty pickup variant of its popular city car for commercial operators. The Skoda Felicia pickup was popular in the construction industry but the vehicle is best known for the ‘Felicia Fun’ derivative, which came in bright yellow and was aimed at the lifestyle market.
Read more about the Skoda Felicia pickup.
The Toyota 4Runner, or the Toyota Hilux Surf as it is known in some markets, is the passenger-car derivative of the Toyota Hilux pickup truck. The Toyota 4Runner (Toyota Hilux Surf) was sold in the UK from 1992 until 1995, when it was replaced by the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.
Read more on the Toyota 4Runner.
Bedford finally replaced its aging Bedford KB model with the Vauxhall Brava in 1988, and this was renamed the Vauxhall Brava in 1990 with the demise of the Bedford brand. Unlike its predecessor, the Bedford / Vauxhall Brava was available in four-wheel drive, which opened it up more to the agricultural industry.
As with the Bedford KB, the Vauxhall Brava was a rebadged Isuzu KB and was manufactured by Isuzu in Thailand. It was Vauxhall’s first four-wheel drive vehicle and, unlike the previous pickup, there was a choice of bodystyles and much more powerful engines for strenuous applications. There was no replacement when GM withdrew the Vauxhall Brava from sale in 2002, although there is talk of Vauxhall re-entering the market in around 2019 (read more on the proposed Vauxhall pickup).
Read more on the Vauxhall Brava.